Eastern CPEC route unfeasible: report

Published: July 26, 2015
Balochistan govt challenges Islamabad’s rationale. PHOTO: AFP

Balochistan govt challenges Islamabad’s rationale. PHOTO: AFP


By preferring a route that passes through Punjab and Sindh rather than Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the federal government is artificially inflating the cost of the China-Pakistan economic corridor, to the point where it may become economically unviable, claims a report studying the matter issued by the Balochistan government.

The report, titled “China Pakistan Economic Corridor: The Route Controversy”, addresses what Quetta feels is Islamabad’s lack of consistency on the matter, and its failure to take into account the needs and desires of all federating units of the country. The matter could get politically inconvenient for the federal government, since Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch’s National Party is an ally of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz.

However, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal claims that the report is one-sided and did not take into account the views of what he feels is the main stakeholder in CPEC: the federal government.

The report was prepared by the chief minister’s Policy Reform Unit, headed by economist Kaiser Bengali. It analyses the viability of the three CPEC routes based on three parameters: population density, total area under cultivation along the routes and total production of four major crops. These parameters become the base for determining the cost of land acquisition and displacement of population, the socio economic benefits and the environmental impact.

Read: Game changer: Army chief vows to turn economic corridor into reality

Pakistan has identified three routes for Chinese cargo: the eastern alignment (passing mainly through central Punjab and Sindh), the central route (passing partly through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and hitherto unconnected parts of Punjab and Sindh) and the western alignment (passing through the relatively underdeveloped areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan).

The provincial government claimed that “despite denials the route has been changed to pass through central Punjab”, Islamabad is primarily focusing on the eastern corridor.

The districts along the preferred eastern route are the most densely populated, having large swathes of land under cultivation and is the main source of production of four major crops, according to the report. All these factors will increase the construction cost. By comparison, the western route is thinly populated and the land is mainly barren.

The comparison between the three routes implies that the eastern route is economically unviable, claims the report.

By selecting the eastern route, the government is trading off today’s security risks with provincial discord and political instability in the future, the report stated.

However, Iqbal said that the central route was the shortest one. “The eastern alignment part of Peshawar-Karachi motorway serves the major markets, industrial areas and most populated centres of the country,” said Iqbal. He said the CPEC concept is not to create a “container-in, container-out” economy but rather help make the country a regional manufacturing hub.

Read: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: Lines of development – not lines of divide

The report argues that the pre-existing sections are likely to save time and cost are not tenable, as most sections will have to be widened and re-laid to cater to the volume and load of the traffic.

CPEC trail

The report finds the traces of the CPEC in the mid-2000s when the Planning Commission made a presentation to the then-president Pervez Musharraf and prime minister Shaukat Aziz. It was then called the “Trade, Energy, Transport and Industrial Corridor”. The Musharraf Administration had identified the central route for creating surface transport connectivity between Gwadar and Kashgar in China.

The report also challenged the government’s claim that it will build all the three alignments. “The resources to build all three routes are not available and China would certainly not allocate resources to pander to political disagreements in Pakistan,” it added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (56)

  • pakistani
    Jul 26, 2015 - 6:46AM

    And you did it again. TRY TO HIDE IT. This agenda to bring down CPEC needs some modification in order to decrease open exposures like these. Mosad Raw and CIA needs to increase their budget for this psychological warfare and give you guys a fair cut. Good luck next time.Recommend

  • anonymus
    Jul 26, 2015 - 8:32AM

    I hope that sincere academic discussion will follow.
    Mr. Bengali has raised the valid points. Recommend

  • Azzy
    Jul 26, 2015 - 8:49AM

    report .. issued by the Balochistan government
    That says it all.Recommend

  • Voice of Karachi
    Jul 26, 2015 - 8:53AM

    The interest of Punjab has greater value than interest of Pakistan. We pay they develop. We sacrifice they are rewarded. So Punjab First rest may rest in piece.Recommend

  • shahid
    Jul 26, 2015 - 8:56AM

    Just wait for bit more and you might actually see CPEC passing through Lahore. This is not lack of consistency. This is the height of consistency, if you know what I mean.Recommend

  • KH
    Jul 26, 2015 - 9:14AM

    The purpose of this report seems to be “Keep the Controversy Alive” and delay the outcome.

    When this cooridor is complete, Pakistan will be a far bigger economy, and then you can do rest of the infrastructure your self. The reader suggest that for eternity we will develop when china funds is naïve.Recommend

  • abreez
    Jul 26, 2015 - 9:19AM

    ET with the International New York TimesRecommend

  • Ashraf
    Jul 26, 2015 - 9:52AM

    Keep talking for the next 10 years. CPEC won’t happen in our lifetime.Recommend

  • Prada
    Jul 26, 2015 - 9:53AM

    Is that the famous Gwadar port? Where have all the ships gone? It was supposed to be Allah’s gift to Pakistan – at least that is what I have been reading for the last 30 years. Recommend

  • Yellow
    Jul 26, 2015 - 10:46AM

    Pakistan.is basically Punjabistan. Punjab treats other provinces as its colonies.Recommend

  • Pakistan
    Jul 26, 2015 - 10:46AM

    This is typical Sharif brothers trait to some how inflate the costs thus increasing the commission money. Zardari is shareholder of illicit money. This eastern route should be outrightly rejected. Please don’t ask Supreme Court or any such org to adjudicate. Let the people outside Parliament decide. They are well aware and well educated after this JC report. Thank you PTI and thank you Imran Khan for bringing this awareness. Your next campaign should be to educate Judiciary.Recommend

  • riz
    Jul 26, 2015 - 11:29AM

    Alll routes should be developed simulteniouly to create harmony n progress accross the pakistan.Recommend

  • Punjabi
    Jul 26, 2015 - 11:58AM

    Shame on PMLN government. They need to put Pakistan first.Recommend

  • SK
    Jul 26, 2015 - 12:10PM

    this is funny that when someone else presents a report, Ahsan Iqbal calls it one sided but on the other hand devise a route which mainly serves Punjab and calls it national. Unless they change their mind set, it won’t be possible to bring national consensus on any mega projectRecommend

  • ashar
    Jul 26, 2015 - 12:30PM

    what is seen with reference to the scenarios developing for CPEC, especially in the light of the statement of the COAS yesterday, Army will have to take over to complete the project. Civil governments cannot be on same page because of their own priorities that collides with each other,Recommend

  • Ibrar
    Jul 26, 2015 - 12:35PM

    RAW is an incompetent and weak organisation which has failed to change K to Indian advantage, with Pak flags continuing to be unfurled in the valley centres. Differences of opinion between various provinces on CPEC should be seen as healthy trend and hopefully we will soon resolve any existing issues and get on with the task.Recommend

  • tariq
    Jul 26, 2015 - 12:38PM

    Pakistan main problem is provincial autonomy. That broke pakistan and this causing all problems.
    Punjabiz r only beneficiary of pakistan
    so bangladeshiz broke away from their slaveryRecommend

  • Anwar Hasan
    Jul 26, 2015 - 1:01PM

    I fully support the Punjab Sind route.Recommend

  • Jul 26, 2015 - 1:07PM

    Mr. Bengali’s points mustn’t be ignored since he is veteran economists and consultant. I believe Federation won’t consider because they’re not concerned about the interest of Baluchistan at all. Recommend

  • Shahid
    Jul 26, 2015 - 1:13PM

    Interesting piece of data uncovered by this report but not adequately highlighted by this newsreport: this CPEC idea was conceived during Musharraf’s rule, PML-N merely changed the name to CPEC! Secondly, Musharraf govt planned to go for the central route, which IMHO is the most balanced and neutral approach (vs the western and eastern routes which nationalist/ethnically biased parties like BNP and PML-N respectively are rooting for).Recommend

  • Rational
    Jul 26, 2015 - 1:24PM

    Timely reporting by ET but in Pakistan, provinces other than Punjab are treated as colonies of Pakistan. In this case though the neglect may be a blessing in disguise as China demands 200 times return for every penny it invests so if some provinces will not be seeing this so called Chinese investment then they should be thankful. Though if Pakistan establishment and Punjab steal even more from the colonized provinces to pay back their Chinese masters then their sufferings would increase. In any case it is loss loss situation for them. Only Punjabis and their master China would benefit Recommend

  • Khurram
    Jul 26, 2015 - 1:46PM

    This is a biased report not taking into account the basic principle of Security i.e., diversification! Diversification is the basic element of security because of which China is investing in this corridor. It is also very smart of the Pakistani Government to develop three different routes to diversify and ensure sustainability of supplies. To put it into simple words, If there is unrest in the provinces of Balichistan and KP then the Eastern route will ensure the continuity of supplies. Following additional points are also missing in this report:
    1) Peshawar – Lahore Motorway is an OLD project which will also be connected to Gwadar to diversify the transportation routes. The existing road and rail networks will be upgraded and become a part of CPEC.
    2) The Central route is the shortest in terms of Kilometers – as proven by various maps presented by the planning commission – which refutes the claim that the Western route is the shortest.
    3) CPEC will also have industrial zones next to the road and rail network which needs large number of trained professionals and hence it creates the need to include the most populous areas of Pakistan in to the corridor.Recommend

  • Sawaiz
    Jul 26, 2015 - 1:49PM

    Plzzzzz dont do tgisthi….all tgethe routes will be buily please don’t make a controversy… Everything was clear after all party conference…PML N Zindabad Pakistan ZindabadRecommend

  • ishrat salim
    Jul 26, 2015 - 1:49PM

    CPEC was first planned in 2000 by Gen M govt & it envisaged only the central route- from Gawader to Kashgher CHINA. this was the time when Gawader port was under construction including the construction of coastal highway, credit of both goes to Gen M. So, now, who is more patriotic ? Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Jul 26, 2015 - 1:51PM

    Sharif brothers will never allow other provinces to benefit from CPEC or any project of national benefits. I dont see CPEC going through underveloped area of Pakistan i.e. Balochistan, KPK and sone parts of Sindhs as no Punjab is there !!

    As matter of fact and true studies CPEC should go through western sides of Pakistan to benefiy whole nation.Recommend

  • vicktor d'souza
    Jul 26, 2015 - 2:16PM

    @Azzy: Last heard, Balochistan is a part of Pakistan. We support the Central Route, as suggested during Musharraf’s administration, and where ‘ ownership ‘ can be claimed by all 4 provinces without needlessly compromising on security.Recommend

  • curious2
    Jul 26, 2015 - 2:27PM


    Mosad Raw and CIA needs to increase
    their budget for this psychological
    warfare and give you guys a fair cut

    Report was commissioned by govt of Balochistan … not ET. Pretty common tactic for Pakistanis who object to things to associate them with Israel, India and America rather than use facts or even common sense.Recommend

    Jul 26, 2015 - 2:32PM

    Punjab is pakistan rest colonies of punjab Recommend

  • liaqat ali
    Jul 26, 2015 - 3:03PM

    Is it not to serve the population as it goes . why to run the route in wildreness. My Gods sake this corridor is just not to serve China only but the whole of Pakistan as well. Recommend

  • Pnpuri
    Jul 26, 2015 - 3:21PM

    Eastern CPEC route is part of silk route. India and Bangladesh are huge markets. Peshawar is connected to Calcutta by G T Road and is further connected to Dhaka . China was always country of traders, it manufactures large amount of industrial goods. India and Bangladesh with combined population of 140 karore are large markets. This route is probably preferred by China Recommend

  • Malakand
    Jul 26, 2015 - 4:17PM

    Western route or no CPEC, period! Sharif brothers will be responsible for the failure of CPEC.Recommend

  • Mrs Juicy Gossips
    Jul 26, 2015 - 4:18PM

    The Eastern route will be subject to direct disruption during a conventional conflict with India, while the Western route is fraught with a high risk of sabotage by extremist elements. The Central Route is advisable.Recommend

  • Mrs Juicy Gossips
    Jul 26, 2015 - 4:26PM

    @Voice of Karachi:
    Don’t understand why ? Balochistan is the largest province in terms of area, has potentially the most mineral and carbon-based resources, has the most attractive and on a per capita basis most educated people in Pakistan… Looking at all these outstanding qualities, Balohis should rule the roost !Recommend

  • roarwali
    Jul 26, 2015 - 4:52PM

    The points raised are valid and need to be considered. Moreover, Kaiser Bengali is a renowned economist and his report should given due attention. Recommend

  • Jul 26, 2015 - 5:56PM

    We grow u eat.. This is a federation it works like this.. We have to work with each other.. For a stronger federation @Voice of Karachi:Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Jul 26, 2015 - 6:33PM

    Can we postpone our political and racial nonsense for some time. China is in a very serious financial crises, therefore its possible CPEC is never built or delayed for many years. One thing everyone of us must understand before spitting stupid remarks against Punjabis. If CPEC is ever built, it will be built by Chinese money and for their benefit. They will decide what’s best for themselves. Recommend

  • Malakand
    Jul 26, 2015 - 7:21PM

    No matter how many routes they suggest,eastern, central, near western but as long as if they are at the east of the Indus, they are not feasible. The only feasible route is the original western route. Sharifs should stop their conspiracy to divert the CPEC through Punjab.Recommend

  • pak47
    Jul 26, 2015 - 7:37PM

    All 4 routes are being made. Why is it an issue ?Recommend

  • Shuaib
    Jul 26, 2015 - 7:42PM

    @Voice of Karachi:
    Karachi won’t be affected at all. Btw the Eastern route is the only one in whivh Sindh benefits. Loool.Recommend

  • Proud Pakistani
    Jul 26, 2015 - 8:02PM

    Pakistan and China wants to do business right now, not to fight on that route with the RAW agents calling themselves Balochs and Pakhtoons – as far as RAW agents are concerned in Baluchistan they will soon come to their end as TTP Insha Allah by the brave Pakistan Army and then you can make any route anywhere you want.Recommend

  • diverst
    Jul 26, 2015 - 8:05PM

    atleast, pmln cares for punjab. ppp destroyed sind, mqm destroyed karachi, anp destroyed kpkRecommend

  • habib alam
    Jul 26, 2015 - 8:19PM

    Islamabad stress on eastern CPEC route shows sarcastic stance of punjab in the development of the CPEC project to further their own interest.
    This approach of punjabi mafia will lead toward disintergration of strong and viable federation and will arouse sense of deprivation in the small provinces.Recommend

  • Mkhayat
    Jul 26, 2015 - 10:43PM

    Whenever it tends to serve Punjab in term of galloping resources, projects etc. Then we heard “national interest”.And when small provinces ask for their rights they are labelled as Raw agent and blah blah…Recommend

  • Morphious
    Jul 26, 2015 - 11:05PM

    May Allah save us….here goes another issue on the lines of KBD…I think someone has to stand up on this and put his shoe down to get it through.Recommend

  • schumaila
    Jul 27, 2015 - 1:01AM

    National Assembly should change the name of the country from Pakistan to Punjab and may then NS think of projecting provinces other than those which come under their throne… or may be the next feasibility report coming out of Planning commission would be “CPEC passing through Raiwand”Recommend

  • syed & syed
    Jul 27, 2015 - 1:50AM

    Nawaz Shareef government and thier loud speaker Ahsan Iqbal is again making the entire project to be dropped or pass through Lahore. Mian brothers are fond of making roads and metros to get hefty kick backs. Otherwise even a fool will select western route to keep it as far away as possible from India. Three route and four routes are absurd. There should be one WESTERN route. I do not know what army thinks about all this humbug. Can any one shut the mouth of genius Ahsan Iqbal who is just a lay man and talking about engineering project.Recommend

  • Gp65
    Jul 27, 2015 - 1:53AM

    China will not access Indian and Bangladeshiatkets through Pakistan. That would be very illogical given it shares a border with India and the Indian border is way closer to the Chinese production centers in East China.Recommend

  • Pankaj
    Jul 27, 2015 - 2:17AM

    all the ships gaye tel lene :)Recommend

  • skills
    Jul 27, 2015 - 2:43AM

    the only feasible route is through raiwindRecommend

  • Arif Khan
    Jul 27, 2015 - 4:18AM

    The corridor should stay east of Indus as everything west if Indus is disputed territory with Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Tore
    Jul 27, 2015 - 5:38AM

    Its independence movement in Balochistan and balochi sepratists kills all foreigners in the Baloch proovince of Pakistan, specially punjabi, sindhi and chineese. TerroristsRecommend

  • Sami
    Jul 27, 2015 - 6:49AM

    The eastern provinces are much safer. The last thing we want are Chinese trucks being burnt by indian sponsored terrorists coming from Afghanistan. Recommend

  • Fairness please
    Jul 27, 2015 - 10:13AM

    Why beg from others? Pakistan was made for Punjabis only so it is natural all the development work is for Punjab only. Can’t wait for the day Sindhi, Baluch and Pashtun nations get their freedom from Pakistan. They can only see development in their independent countries where Punjab will not be there to suck their blood.Recommend

  • Mani
    Jul 27, 2015 - 11:02AM

    Unfortunately the major portion of the infrastructure required for connecting Gawadar with Kashghar is in place on the Southern route……as for as report is concerned….the APC that was held a few months back decided that the work on two routes western n central will start simultaneously……70% of infrastructure is available on southern route remaining 30% is in progress….So one can say that with a difference of a few years all routes will be functional……But thats only possible if the route is allowed to be constructed instead of making some misguiding comments aRecommend

  • Raheem Farman
    Aug 12, 2015 - 11:51AM

    Here we again facing the provincial conflicts better we should say provincial intrest matters allot than the country intrest. This is just a route we should keep rhis route away from our centre, don’t waste the fertile land of punjab. Fedral Gov just want to show that this is done for punjabi people that they get future vote rto their prolong gov.Recommend

  • Hameed
    Nov 24, 2015 - 1:18AM

    Punjabis ruining it for everyone as usual.Recommend

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